Eflman's Amazing Alice

CD soundtrack: Danny Eflman, Alice in Wonderland

  • Alisa u zemlji čudesa (Alice in Wonderland), red. Tim Burton

    Danny Elfman and Tim Burton represent the type of composer-director team which functions in the way that, figuratively (and, possibly, literary?) said, composer reads director’s thoughts. The audience, too, is used that specific visual Tim Burton’s style is accompanied by specific style of Danny Elfman’s music. But Elfman has developed a lot. From the singer in the band of unusual name The Mystick Knights of Oingo Boingo, through interesting film composer who never got proper musical education, he became the composer of excellence from whose melodic, harmonic and orchestrational ideas one can learn.


    The last project of the famous couple, Alice in Wonderland, represents the peak of Elfman’s musical creation until now. Only his concert work, amazing Serenada Shizofrana, has the same, or maybe even greater, quality. But Alice carries a lot from Serenada: gorgeous orhcestration, smart usage of children’s voices, rich interaction of orchestral parts (some of which, because of the typical ostinato figures, sound almost minimalistic), and skilful development of melody (that is: melodies – but Alice sounds like there is only one melody: the main theme, which is specifically exposed, and which functions as a specifically treated leitmotif of the heroine). From all this come out unbelievably rich orchestral colors and harmonic polychromy which completely responds to the richness of colors in which, I believe, all fans of Burton’s films and Elfman’s music are in love.
    Alisa u zemlji čudesa (Alice in Wonderland), red. Tim Burton

    Although the ones with the deep knowledge of Elfman’s opus find in this score reminiscences of his other famous scores (like Batman, Edward Scissorhand, The Nightmare Before Christmas), the score for Alice feels so complete, that even CD album sounds as a musical whole (or, as a new Serenada Shizofrana) not discovering that some ideas in the score have, in reality, originated in the last moment. This concerns heroic theme which should appear only in the second half of the movie, but became the main, Alice’s theme. This also concerns decision that the main theme won’t be used only in its instrumental version (as was the initial idea) but that it’ll have simple lyrics (namely, Alice’s name).


    This is, I believe, the result of long experience and composer’s reading director’s thoughts. Burton and Elfman are so well coordinated in their creative flourishing that they can not be stopped by dead lines of any kind. It is astonishing how great this score – which on CD sounds almost as a concert work – functions in the film itself: how much is unobtrusive on one hand, and how much, on the other hand, hastens the feeling of colorfulness and of dreamlike fantasy. This fantasy got new clothes by Burton and Eflman, clothes which changed the old ones from the famous metaphorical book by Lewis Caroll. 

    © Irena Paulus, FILMOVI.hr, 24 July 2010

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